“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

The Bavarian Castles: Look at THAT

Travel mirrors life.
 
No, you’re not likely to have to deal with the awful stuff life can dish out, like tragedy or grief. Along with the fabulous facets of a great trip, however, you can expect to contend with mishaps, screw-ups, getting lost, weather, electrical currents, your devices’ cables, and the stuff you’ll encounter from being at the mercy of other people, businesses, and animals. To help mitigate some problems, using a travel agent for a complicated trip is a good idea, but it’s not a magic shield.
 
We traveled by air, rail, bus, car, and foot to three countries – Germany, Austria, Italy. And we had more than our share of fabulous. Nevertheless. . . .
 
As one of Germany’s great international cities, Munich has an extra little bonus tucked into its pocket; it has all of the Free State of Bavaria to offer. It encompasses the German lands between the majestic Alps to the wetlands of the Danube River.
 

The Bavarian landscape en route to the castles
I chose the Bavarian Castles in deference to Joanna Leigh’s immersion into the World of Disney Princesses. So, on our second day in Munich, we made our way to “Mad” Ludwig II’s Bavarian castles Linderhof and Neuschwanstein. Our hotel was only a short walk to the tour-bus stop, except when we rounded the corner we saw what looked like hundreds of buses and lots of confusion. It looked like the floor of the NY Stock Exchange, with lots of hands waving in the air and a jumble of languages and people. We heard English, headed in that direction, found our bus by waiving our tickets in the air, and got on. It was a beautiful day.
 
  As you got further from Munich and closer to the Alps, the foothills’ fields, meadows and countryside got more lush with each mile. It’s dairy cattle country, so you could hear cowbells.
 
I was having an unfortunate mental image of Julie Andrews appearing from a hill in her blue Bavarian dress and white apron and breaking into song.
 
Schloss Linderhof
2SchlossLinderhof-4  2SchlossLinderhof-6Linderhof façade and gardens
2SchlossLinderhof-10Linderhof from the Music Pavilion
 
Schloss Linderhof is high up a mountain. As we went up, up, up, switch-backing as we climbed, I became fixated on how Ludwig’s builders, architects, musicians, decorators, cooks, cleaners, gardeners, tailors, guards, shoemakers, animal keepers and grooms, and all the stuff all these people had to bring with them up that mountain to satisfy His Madness – how did they get it all up there? How many hundreds of trips did they have to make? At a certain height buses could not go any further up; visitors are left with a good walk to the castle. Along the way the lush forests offer plenty of natural beauty to land your eyes on, including the small lake inhabited by the castle’s swans. It seems Mad Ludwig had a thing for swans, both real and as a motif echoed everywhere.
 
But we had been warned by our tour guide.
 
“Yes, they are beautiful,” said our tour guide, “but they are evil. Recently these swans took off after a man who got a centimeter too close, tore his pants leg off, and injured his leg bad enough that we had to call an ambulance.”
 
So, was “Mad” Ludwig II insane or angry? He was probably angry first, because he had not been named Divine and Absolute Ruler of all his domain, as France’s Sun King, Louis XIV, Ludwig’s idol, had been. As absolute ruler, he could have continued his unabated spending on castles and the fantasy retreats he was creating. At the same time, he became enamored with the heroic music of Richard Wagner and the mythology it was built on. His devotion to Wagner, the music, and the themes pushed him to extreme limits;  he became determined to escape to a fantasy world of his own making, and he made it with Linderhof, Neuschwanstein, and other lavish dwellings. He blew out the coffers doing it, and made enemies of powerful people. At Linderhof, he would sleep all day then stay up all night in the Hall of Mirrors to surround himself with the extreme light of many candles bouncing off all the mirrors. That sounds a little crazy. He lived out the rest of his life in this fantasy world until the day of his “mysterious” death by drowning, even though an autopsy revealed no water in his lungs.
 
The grounds and castle interiors at both places have been described as French Baroque. I call it Outlandish Rococo, echoing Versailles to the insane limits. The photography police were out in force, keeping visitors from taking their own pictures, but the stores at both places are overflowing with postcards, and many photos are available on the internet.
 
My favorite Linderhof room was the dining room with its dining room table-floor. No, Ludwig wasn’t mad enough to eat on the floor, but the whole dining room table and the floor beneath it was lowered into the kitchen area below the dining room, the table was set for four, the food served, drinks poured, and sent back up to become the dining room floor and lavishly served table all at one time. The word is that His Madness didn’t have company or dinner parties, but he liked to talk to favorite people he imagined were dining with him. That seems a little Rococo-cuckoo to me.
 
Outlandish Rococo includes items like a carpet made of ostrich plumes, an ivory chandelier, Meissen centerpiece of bunches of flowers, gilded everything you can imagine, a table inlaid with jewels, mantles of jewels, and so much else, you cannot see it all.
 
Schloss Neuschwanstein
Schloss Neuschwanstein’s famous silhouette
 

3SchlossNsw-6a
The Bavarian fantasy world continued as we spent a little time at Oberammergau, the village of the Passion play, which lasts for 6 or 8 hours, and houses painted in the colorful style of trompe l’oiel with figures from German fairy tales, cuckoo clocks, bowers of flowers and more, seeming real enough to jump to the ground in front of you. Standard dress is Basic Bavarian – men in Lederhosen, knee socks; women in low-cut peasant-type dresses with white aprons.
 
Then on to Schloss Neuschwanstein, up an even more dramatic climb, until you catch a sight of one of the most astounding silhouettes in all of photography. The castle sits atop a huge outcropping over the 300-feet-deep gorge over the Pöllat River. No wonder Walt Disney chose this as his model for Disney Castles. You may recognize it as Sleeping Beauty’s castle and one of its towers as the place where Rapunzel let down her hair.
 
Two caveats: Again, busses have to let passengers off at a certain point; that makes me wonder even more how all His Madness’s stuff got up there. First for Seniors and disabled visitors: it’s a tough walk to, inside of, and from the castle, including a 15-20 minute walk uphill, three or four levels of stairs, and a very long (like 45-60 minutes) and sometimes arduous walk down to the busses.
 
Second: If you have any fear of heights at all, don’t do this: On the way up, as you get close to the castle, you can step onto a bridge spanning the 300-foot gorge. Looking down was unnerving; we felt like daredevils putting our feet on it. Then Joanna Leigh spotted on the opposite side, across that gorge, people! Several people were up there, maybe 100 feet higher than at our level.

4Gorge-1The gorge and the “hikers” on the cliff opposite the bridge
and higher than we were on the bridge
 
“What are those people doing,” Joanna Leigh asked.
 
Here’s what I said: “Oh, my gosh, I don’t know.”
 
Here’s what I thought: They probably think of themselves as hikers; I think they’re dumbasses.
 
I said out loud: “Great, we’re about to witness a horrible tragedy and it will ruin our trip.”
 
Then, a drop out of the sky came down. None of had even noticed that rain clouds had built. Then another, and they were big drops. After checking my Intellicast app before we left the hotel, I grabbed Joanna Leigh’s raincoat and my waterproof poncho. We put them on just as it started coming down, in buckets. I have no idea how those dumbasses across the gorge survived; so far as any of us knew, they did. It had to be slippery as ice on that tiny ledge. Hundreds of people were in the line waiting for their group to be called. Most had no rain gear, and there was nothing to do but start the LONG walk down or stand and take it. Either way you’d be drenched. It rained and rained and rained. People were huddled under anyone’s umbrella, to no avail at all. It poured. Joanna Leigh’s raincoat seemed to be holding. The buckets became barrels. Rain dripped off people’s noses, hair, glasses, the umbrella’s teats, fingers, any bit of a slope it could find. The drips went down on people’s shoulders, their backs, the seams of their jackets, into their shoes. Hundreds of us, standing outside, for at least 30 minutes. I was trying to protect my phone-camera. I reached under my poncho. It wasn’t holding. It was wet inside.
 
I thought, “Wouldn’t it be better to just let everyone in rather than drip all this water onto the castle floors?” But it’s a “small” castle, so we all waited. It was amazing that there was so little grumbling. My guess is that because there were hundreds of us, a grumbler would be banished. The group ahead of us was called. Joanna Leigh must have gone with that group and I kind of panicked. I called and called. I told the women who was doing the group calling that I need to find her. She said, “No.”
 
I said, “Watch me, hag,” and got by her. Some of our group has already gotten to the entrance steps and were looking out for her. Our tour began.
 
It’s funny, but I don’t have clear memories of much except for sneaking to get a photo or two and for the kitchen, which led to a long white plaster passageway out. I remember wondering if His Madness had imaginary dinner guests here too.
S6300747Moments before the Heavens poured buckets of rain
 
I do remember that these interiors could be described as Extreme Outlandish Rococo, which may cause blurred memories. The internet has plenty of pictures, but I doubt that googling Extreme Outlandish Rococo will get you there.
 
People have asked me what Joanna Leigh said about everything. More than saying things or commenting on everything, she seemed to be just sopping it all up. Mainly she said many times, “Jo, look at THAT, look at that.”
 
Downhill has its advantages, but it was hard to keep that in mind for the long wet walk back to the buses. On the trip back to Munich it poured again. It was what we call a “frog strangler” and it was almost impossible to see much out the window. Everyone seemed exhausted. The tour guide sneaked a plate of French fries to Joanna Leigh and put her finger to her mouth to keep it under wraps.
 
The next day we would get on the train for Innsbruck and for the primary reasons for the trip. As in life, you have to be flexible.

All photos here: https://plus.google.com/photos/+JoannaCraveyHutt/albums


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